Frequently Asked Questions

General fieldwork questions

 

What is the recording period for the breeding fieldwork?

Breeding season fieldwork runs from 1st April to 31st July inclusive. The recording period is divided into an early period in April/May and a late period in June/July, though we recommend late period visits be done in June if at all possible because bird activity tends to tail off in July

 

Do I need to register to do the Atlas?

No, anyone can submit Roving Records and there is no need to register in advance. However, to use the online system and submit these records online to see instant results you will need to register to get a BTO online username and password. This is very easy to do (click here)
To do a Timed Tetrad Visit you must first speak to your Regional Organiser to get an available square. It is not essential to be an online user but again we very much encourage this because results can be seen much more quickly.

Who is my Regional Organiser?

Click here to determine who is your RO.

How do I give a full grid reference?

A 10-km grid reference denotes a 10km by 10km square of the relevant (British or Irish) Ordnance Survey national grids. A full 10-km grid reference comprises a two letter prefix followed by two digits. You can add a single letter suffix to further denote the tetrad (2km by 2km grid square), e.g. SK45B.
Click here for a worked example of how to give a grid reference.

What are tetrads?

Tetrads are 2km by 2km squares. There are 25 tetrads in each 10-km square and each is identified by the grid reference of the 10-km square (e.g. SK45) plus a single letter suffix to identify the tetrad (e.g. SK45B). Tetrad codes run from A to Z (excluding O) from the SW (bottom left) corner to the NE (top right) corner as shown in the grid example. For more information on identifying tetrads click here

 

I've found a rare breeding bird. How do you treat confidential records?

Many formerly rare species are now much more widespread or now benefit from increased protection. Unfortunately, some species are still subject to persecution or egg collecting. In conjunction with the British and Irish Rare Bird Breeding Panel the Bird Atlas has developed a protocol for how accurately we will map records of confidential species. Basically we will only map certain species at coarse scales so as not to give away the precise breeding location. Some species will not be mapped under any circumstances. Any more precise information provided for the Bird Atlas project will remain confidential.

 

Where can I get more survey forms?

Click here  to view additional Roving Recorder forms that can be printed directly. If you require a large number, perhaps to distribute to birdwatchers, please contact the Atlas Coordinator (mailto, or call 01842 750050). Timed Tetrad Visit forms are only available by signing up to a tetrad through your RO. To view field instructions for a TTV click here

 

Roving Recorder questions

What type of records do you want?

Roving recorder forms can be used to submit any bird distribution and breeding evidence records. You might decide to go out and thoroughly cover a tetrad or 10-km square and use the Rover form to record all the species you see; you could use it to record a flock of swans seen from the motorway whilst on a long drive; even just to submit a record of a Sparrowhawk hunting through your garden. Basically any and all records count because they all contribute towards the cumulative species list for each square.

I don't know the tetrad. Is 10-km precise enough?

If you cannot be certain which tetrad you were in then please submit the record at 10-km resolution. For more information on identifying tetrads click here.

How do I give a grid reference?

A 10-km grid reference denotes a 10km by 10km square of the relevant (British or Irish) Ordnance Survey national grids. A full 10-km grid reference comprises a two letter prefix followed by two digits. You can add a single letter suffix to further denote the tetrad (2km by 2km grid square), e.g. SK45B.
Click here for a worked example of how to give a grid reference.

Do I need to provide breeding evidence for every record?

No - just record what you see, but by all means go back to the site on a later date or spend longer observing if you think the species might be breeding. But always remember the welfare of the birds must come first and do not cause undue disturbance. You do not need to find nests to confirm breeding. Click here to read more about evidence of breeding

Can I do both Roving Recording and a Timed Tetrad Visit?

Yes. If already doing Roving Recording, contact your Regional Organiser to find out which tetrads are available for Timed Tetrad Visits. Click here to contact your Regional Organiser.

 

Evidence of Breeding questions

Do I need to provide breeding evidence?

Yes - record the highest level of breeding evidence you see/hear whilst recording in the tetrad

What is evidence of breeding?

For many years Atlases have categorised records according to 'Possible', 'Probable' and 'Confirmed' breeding and have mapped these differently so it is possible to see, for example, early colonists that are not yet breeding, or the edge of a range where a species is contracting and now failing to breed. The standard definitions identify several types of sightings you may make that constitute each category of breeding. For example, a single bird singing in suitable habitat constitutes 'Possible breeding', whereas a bird carrying food or faeces constitutes 'Confirmed breeding'. Many of these types of evidence are things we see every day whilst birdwatching and surveying and we are seeking these records to help determine the category of breeding for each species in each 10-km square. To see the full list of definitions and read more, click here.

Where can I see definitions of breeding evidence codes?

Click here to see the full list of definitions and read more about evidence of breeding.

What to do concerning Schedule 1 species?

Some rare and scarce breeding birds are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 as amended by the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and it is an offence to visit a nest of these species without a licence. A full list of these species and details of what to do if you encounter one of these species is given here.

 

Health and Safety issues

 Read the BTO's Health and Safety guidelines